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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Great Reading

Welcome New Readers! Introduce Yourself!

Happy weekend, everyone!

I know we have a lot of new readers here, and I want to welcome you all.  And to let you know that I LOVE your comments.  Love them!

Please take a moment to peek in and say hello.

I would love to know (from new readers and old):  Where are you from?  What do you do for a living?  And what are your favorite moments of sustainable living?

Simple comments are fine – just take the plunge and write a few words.  It would really mean a lot to me!!

What Fertilizer Do You Use for Tomatoes and Peppers?

Kevin’s Question…

Hi Melinda,

I appreciate the information you provided on your website about how to pollinate tomatoes and peppers.  Thank you.

Currently I am using Miracle Grow as a fertilizer… (I know…BOOOO!  HIIISSS!)…but I am hoping to move away from that once I feel more comfortable with my abilities as a gardener.

What is a more natural substitute and does this subsititute provide similar results to Miracle Grow?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.  Thank you.  :)

Take care,

I just received this email this morning, and thought I could throw it out to all of us to answer:  As you’re planning your gardens for Spring in the Northern Hemisphere (or putting them to bed in the Southern Hemisphere)…

What Do YOU Use to Feed Tomatoes and Peppers??


Have You Ever Done a Cleanse or Detox?

Berry Smoothie

Hey y’all – I have two days full of intense client meetings, breakfast through dinner, so I’m turning the microphone over to you!!

  1. Have you ever done a cleanse or detox?
  2. If so, what was your experience?  Which one(s) did you try?  Any tips, advice, words of wisdom or warning?
  3. If not, are you thinking about it?  What questions do you have that I might answer?

Also please feel free to let me know if these posts are irritating the heck out of you, or they’re really hitting home, or anything in between.  I’d love to know what you’re thinking!!

Is Green a Hokey Western Invention?

GrandmaMy Grandmother

I received a thought-provoking email recently that I’d thought I’d put to you all to answer.

Hi Melinda!

I am soooooo not a blog-commenter, you cannot imagine! Pretty safe to say this is my first.

Your site is so real and honest. I was browsing purely for research yet the character ringing through these pages was so… crystal, I think?… I couldn’t help but engage.

I live in the Philippines, a developing country in Asia. While my family is in that slim ratio of the more materially fortunate, our country is beset with poverty, corruption and moral decay. As such, the ideals on this site sound removed from reality, as esoteric as a new religion. Even as IN PRACTICE it all comes down to things our pre-colonial ancestors took for granted! Conditioning shampoo made from tree-bark, leaves/roots/flowers in everything, water kept cool in clay jars, giant palm fronds pulled manually to cool the room, wood-burning stoves… my own grandmother was a poster girl for green!

It’s when we think of it as modern or alternative or even Western that it feels hokey. Being poor and still agricultural, maybe we don’t need to call it “green”. It’s just what our mothers did.

And then I wonder: isn’t that true even for you guys???

Best of luck with this undertaking!
If there’s anything I can do…


What I Believe

Thank you for your thought-provoking question, Adele!

First off, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their lifestyle, because whether or not it’s a Western invention, I think it’s necessary given how far our Western culture has gone astray.

Secondly, I also believe that back to the basics or living as our mothers did is a bit artificial, because our lives ARE different than our mother’s and grandmother’s, and I don’t believe it’s realistic nor healthy to be always looking back.  There are many things I learned from my grandmother and mother that I do want to return to my normal life.  But there are a lot of aspects in the contemporary world that are essential to understand and be a part of in order to change society.

For example, I can’t blog if I go back to the simplicity of life during my grandmother’s time.  Yet I feel I’m creating great change in my life as well as thousands of others’ lives by blogging.  I also can’t run a business that creates wide-spread change without utilizing modern tools and reaching people where they are, which often means reaching people with technology.

And finally, my mother and grandmother didn’t always have it easy, and didn’t have time to do some of the things I do today.  I did try to live a lifestyle that was self-sufficient and idolized an old way of doing things. But I found that I didn’t have time to reach out to others, I didn’t have enough money to survive as a family, nor did I totally enjoy a lifestyle that so fully centered around my own daily life.

So I see living a sustainable lifestyle as utilizing the tools we need to use in order to generate change, while reincorporating some of the timeless values of our ancestors.  In other words, taking the best of both worlds, both generations.

What Do You Believe?

Are we just creating another artificial, hokey alternative?

What Is The Hardest Part About Living Sustainably, Frugaly, or Green?

A long while back many of us shared the most difficult things to change in our lives – on our paths toward sustainability.  We have so many new people joining us, and life has changed quite a lot since then.  So let’s do it again!

Once we share them here, we can help one another to make those changes over time.  Shall we?

For me, the hardest things have been:

  1. Making the time to cook.  Particularly at lunch,  I eat (organic) frozen food.  Ack – it’s true!
  2. Making the time to help other people make lifestyle changes.  Particularly lately, I haven’t made time to help others by way of the blog (sorry guys!), speaking, and other ways.
  3. Being a real part of my new community.  I don’t spend enough time at local events, I don’t volunteer locally (there are lots of local organizations that could use my help), and I don’t feel like I participate in my new neighborhood.

What Change Is The Hardest For You?

Think a bit, and then please share!  What do you wish you were doing, but you just can’t make yourself do?  What do you feel guilty about doing?

I will tell you it feels good to write them down.  Now that they’re there, on paper, I see what I need to work on.

Try it!

Q and A: Strawberry Attacking Raccoons, Bratty Winter Ants, Hydroponic Tea, Soaking Lemons, and More!

Please feel free to email me with questions you have about sustainable living.  I receive an awful lot of ads and press releases, of which about 99.9% of them I ignore (there are no ads on this site!) – so don’t send ads unless it really pertains to what we discuss here.  Questions and resources, however, are very much welcome!

And please, please, please answer any of the following questions in the comments – you all know more about some of this than I do!!


How Do You Get Rid of An Ant Problem?

From Viki:

I live in a centennial farm house. The kitchen floor is actually not on a traditional foundation rather it is apx. 2 foot off dirt with actual bolders of sort holding up the joists with a reinforced (over the years) stone foundation. These dirty little ‘pisants’ mostly show themselves come dead of winter-I live in MI. I have done traps. I kill when found. I swear they are the goffiest to kill as you can actually squeze them into nothing and away they go again.TINY brats. Do you have any recommedations for this problem. What is their normal habitat?  Are they living in the 100+ year old floor boards? I am at wits end.  Thanks for any info you have or have heard of. Viki

Viki, I’ve had that experience as well – the ants seem to like to come in when it gets cold or rainy.  I would trace the ants to wherever they’re coming in, and then spray where they’re coming in.

At the same time, you have to be very diligent of taking away all the food they might find.  I had a severe ant infestation once, in Los Angeles, and ended up buying a lot of air tight containers to put up dog food, flour, crackers, pastas, everything they might find.  I had to keep the counters free of all crumbs.  And I even had to make the bathroom clean because they liked eating soap!  But once I was diligent about that for about a month, the ants stopped looking in my home.

Lastly, if you have a yard, they might be coming from somewhere out there.  Check around your yard and see if you can find the hill.  There were also some great comments in this post that might help.

Good luck!   -Melinda

Why Do You Soak Lemons Overnight To Make Marmalade?

From Robert:

I thought  Meyer was Myer, boy was I wrong.

I am starting your recipe this afternoon and need a point of clarification, please.

You have us add the water to the lemons and “let stand overnight”, is the o/v nite necessary?  Otherwise I’d have this canned by supper. {fresh rockfish w/ a lite sause, orzo w/ a bit of the sauce and a green salad.}

Likely I won’t hear back by then so I will follow the instructions but I would like an answer to the why when you can spare the time.

Thanks a bunch

Hi Robert,

Letting it stand overnight allows the pith (white interior part of the skin) to soak.  The pith is what makes marmalade gel – it’s the reason you don’t need to add gelatin to marmalade, but you do need to add it to berry jam for example.

I have not tried to make it without soaking overnight.  It’s possible it would work but would take longer to gel… but it is also possible that you will not be able to get it to gel at all.  So if you want some tonight for fish, and you don’t really care if it gels much, try a small batch and see what happens!  (And do let me know if you try it – I’m interested to hear!)  But for longer term storage, I highly recommend the overnight soaking.

With all my best,

How Do you Grow Tea Hydroponically?

From Monica:

I think your [Camelia Sinensis] article is great and was wondering whether you know anything about growing this plant hydroponically?

Thanks in advance.

Hi Linda, unfortunately I’m not a hydroponic grower so I can’t help you – does anyone know???

How Do I Discourage A Raccoon From The Garden?

From swift:

there is a raccoon attacking my strawberry patch, how do i get rid of it?

Hi there, I wrote an article a while back about how to deter bunnies – there may be some things there that could help.  But I’ve never had to deal with them myself, except as innocent onlookers.  Anyone have any good advice for deterring raccoons?

How Do I Email Your Post?

From Nanette:

there’s an ant infestation in my daughter’s condo.  i would like to send her [your article]… because right now she is using RAID!  how do i copy this and send it to her?

Hi Nanette,

Down at the bottom of each article, there is a program called “ShareThis”.  (It’s located right under the “Similar Posts” section.)  If you click on “ShareThis”, the very first option that appears is “Email”.  Just click “Email”, and it will send the article!

Here’s the link to the Organic Ant Control article, in case you’ve lost it!

Hope that helps!  Let me know if I can help further.

Have a lovely day,


Seed Saver’s Exchange

From Corrin:

[Removed due to an unverifiable source.]


Please help answer the questions above!  Leave a comment below, or if you’d rather, send me an email.  If  you enjoy these posts and find them useful, please let me know.

Thanks, everyone!

Who Are You Out There In The Shadows?

Butterfly On Our Old Meyer Lemon Tree


It has been a long time since I’ve taken math at school, but I do know that there are about 1,000 subscribers and another 1,500-2,000 people visiting here each day.  Which means only about 5% of you all have left a comment here….

And that is totally ok, but I would love for you to come out for a peek, and tell me a bit about you.

Would You Take a Moment to Introduce Yourself?

Simple comments are fine – just take the plunge and write a few words!

I would love to know:  Where do you live?  What do you do for a living?  And how did you come to begin living a sustainable life?

Pretty Please?